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Looking ahead to Ohio State’s 2020 football schedule

The Buckeyes’ road to the CFP next season could be bumpy

College Football Playoff Semifinal at the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“Another undefeated regular season will be no easy undertaking for Ohio State. While Ryan Day was fond of compartmentalizing his first schedule as coach of the Buckeyes, this one is a little harder to put into groups of games.”

- Marcus Hartman, Dayton Daily News

Ohio State’s 2019 schedule was easy to separate into a few clear sections. The Buckeyes opened the regular season with a relatively easy non-conference schedule, although all three opponents would later go on to play in their respective conference title games. With a quick road contest against the Hoosiers mixed in between, OSU really got into its Big Ten schedule with potential trap games at Nebraska and Northwestern and a home game against a lowly Michigan State team.

Then the season really began, as Ryan Day and the boys dispatched No. 13 Wisconsin, had two tune-up games against Maryland and Rutgers before ending with a gauntlet of opponents including No. 8 Penn State, No. 13 Michigan and a second meeting with the Badgers in the Big Ten title game. The schedule was clearly backloaded, and in the end it hurt Ohio State as a sluggish performance to start the conference championship game dropped the Buckeyes from the one seed to No. 2, missing out on the easier playoff opponent and instead drawing Clemson.

Ohio State’s 2020 schedule is more sporadic, and obviously more difficult. While the opponents are tougher, it is at least spread out so that the team will get more breaks between harder stretches and potentially keep the team more energized and avoid an end-of-season burnout.

The Buckeyes will open next season with in-state opponent Bowling Green before its first big test on the road against Oregon, who will be a much different team having to replace quarterback Justin Herbert and almost its entire offensive line. OSU will then play three-straight home games, with matchups against Buffalo and Rutgers, a bye week, and then a rematch against Iowa in the first meeting between the two teams since the blowout in 2017.

OSU will then have a tough two-game road trip to Michigan State and Penn State, which will undoubtably be the Nittany Lions’ whiteout game in a very hostile environment. The team will then return home to take on Nebraska and Indiana, followed by another two-game road trip to Maryland and Illinois — a team that upset Wisconsin in Champaign this season. As it always does, the regular season will conclude with the Michigan game, this time taking place in Columbus.

Ryan Day certainly has his hands full with plenty of tough games on the horizon, especially with the week two matchup against the Ducks and the back-to-back road games against the Spartans and Nittany Lions. If Ohio State is able to finish the regular season undefeated yet again, or even win the Big Ten title game with one loss, their resumé will no doubt be good enough to earn them a spot in the College Football Playoff, but it will be no easy task.

For the third time this season and second consecutive week, Ohio State guard Kierstan Bell earned Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors. The 6-foot-1 hooper out of Canton, Ohio affectionately nicknamed “Shebron” had one of her best three-game stretches of the season during one of the team’s toughest runs. Against Maryland, Michigan and Penn State — three games in six days in which the team went 2-1 — Bell did it all, averaging 12.3 points with three rebounds and two assists per game. She shot 46.4 from the field and 41.2 percent from deep — her best three-game output of the year.

In the win over the No. 24 Wolverines, Bell scored 15 points while posting team-highs in rebounds (6) and assists (3) with two steals. On Sunday against Penn State, Bell dropped 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting from the field while picking up three boards and three assists in the team’s 10-point victory.

Bell previously won the conference award last week and on Dec. 9, following the team’s big win over No. 2 Louisville. Since the Big Ten began recognizing the Freshman of the Week at the start of the 2009-10 season, Bell has earned the award the second most times of any Buckeye, trailing only Kelsey Mitchell’s six during the 2014-15 season.

Now sitting at 10-6 on the year, the women’s hoops team will try and stay hot when they hit the road to take on Michigan State this Thursday before returning home to face-off against Illinois in Columbus on Sunday.

“The biggest fall by a team that remains in the poll came from Ohio State, which dropped two more games — to Maryland and Indiana — to make it four consecutive losses. The Buckeyes were once in the top five but are now No. 21.”

- Associated Press via WBNS-10TV

While things are looking up for the women’s team, the men’s basketball squad is trending in quite the opposite direction. After an 11-1 start to the season, Chris Holtmann’s group has now dropped four-straight games, including a 1-4 start in the Big Ten that has the Buckeyes sitting at No. 13 out of 14 teams in the conference standings. An Ohio State team that was ranked No. 2 in the country in the AP Poll not too long ago fell to No. 21 in Monday’s rankings, and is in danger of dropping out entirely with another loss.

It’s tough to pinpoint just one issue with the team right now, but the confidence is clearly fading with each additional defeat. Turnovers have been a huge issue all season long for the Buckeyes, but they had been able to overcome them with a stellar defensive effort and quality ball movement on the offensive end. Both of those areas have since faded dramatically, as Ohio State has been struggling to guard the three-point line and find any source of offense outside of Kaleb Wesson over the current losing streak.

Things really seemed to come to a head in the latest loss to Indiana, where the team’s second-leading scorer Duane Washington Jr. was benched in the first half after missing an assignment on defense. When asked about the move, coach Holtmann said he did not think Washington’s mind was where it needed to be, and that he thought his effort was “pretty poor.” It seems the move could be considered a microcosm of the entire team’s current stretch, and they must find a way to lock back in and get back on the right track.

Playing in the Big Ten this season is not going to help any of Ohio State’s struggles, as the conference as a whole seems to be borrowing the “assured mutual destruction” model similar to that of Pac-12 football. Road teams in the Big Ten are now a combined 5-32 on the year, and the level of competition is high across the board. There are no easy games on the horizon, and no relief is sight. If the Buckeyes are going to get out of this funk, they are going to have to do it all on their own.

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